Every area of the country faces the possibility of dealing with natural or man-made disasters and the devastation these disasters can cause to surrounding neighborhoods and economies. The federal government estimates more than 40 percent of businesses that experience a disaster without a disaster plan in place never reopen.
Even if you think your business is located in an area that will be unaffected by a disaster, consider what would happen to your daily operations if you experience a break in utility services, a loss in customers, or a stop in the supply chain. It’s essential to think about what your employees, customers, and workplace need to continue doing business.
The key questions that must be answered when developing a disaster plan involve your facilities, operations, communications, and insurance. With a small investment of time and money, your business will be ready to respond if something were to happen.
As for your facilities, consider what would happen if you had to be closed for several days, what would happen if your building were destroyed, and what essential equipment your business needs to minimally operate. For operations, determine what can be done in case of a power outage or a loss of phone service and how to continue serving your customers. Communication is key in a disaster, and this includes backing up computer data; keeping lists of employee and customer phone numbers off-premise; and having a plan for what would happen if payroll, tax, accounting, and other key records were destroyed. Lastly, review your insurance plan at least annually to make sure it’s adequate and can provide for your business and employees while operations return to normal.
Other components of a business disaster plan include being prepared to keep employees and customers safe while on your premises. At the minimum, this includes keeping emergency supplies on hand and having an evacuation plan in place. For more information on preparing for a disaster, visit the American Red Cross at www.redcross.org/services/disaster/beprepared. More information also can be found through the Institute for Business and Home Safety at www.ibhs.org and through your local fire department.
Of course, the most important thing to remember during a disaster is that there’s a network of local health, social service, and governmental agencies ready to help. By funding local emergency services, the Heart of Illinois United Way is ensuring there’s a safety net in place for our community when disaster strikes. IBI